Amidst speculation he could walk away from F1, Mario Andretti has backed Lewis Hamilton to line up on the 2022 grid as he has all the “incentive” he needs with an eighth title on the cards.
Hamilton was gutted after losing the 2021 World title to Max Verstappen on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Declaring in the heat of the moment that the race, and the outcome of the Drivers’ Championship, had been “manipulated”, Hamilton has been silent ever since.
The Mercedes driver’s silence has pundits speculating as to whether he is done with Formula 1.
It is speculated that he will only make a decision about whether or not to return after the FIA’s report into the Abu Dhabi controversy is released mid-February.
1978 World Champion Andretti is convinced Hamilton will return.
“I would think so. I think he would probably even do a disservice to himself, perhaps, to leave under negative circumstances – from his standpoint,” he said in an interview with RacingNews365.com.
But he added: “It’s hard to get into somebody else’s head, but from where I stand, I would say, ‘You know what, I’m going to go out there and show them’.”
“He has a big incentive to be alone, with an eighth World title, so what more incentive do you want?
“He has so much to look forward to, to go out there and still battle. He’s got all the ingredients to be able to fight, so that’s the way I see it.
“I’m sure that all of his fans would love to see that, and let this saga continue, with this great rivalry between the two teams and two great drivers.”
But while some are still up in arms about Hamilton’s loss, and Verstappen’s triumph, Andretti feels one cannot argue that the Red Bull driver was a deserving champion.
Verstappen won the most grands prix, and in fact led more laps in 2021 than the rest of the field combined.
Lady Luck and the “miracle” that was Nicholas Latifi crashing which triggered the Safety Car and the controversy in Abu Dhabi only sealed it for the Dutchman.
“At the end of the day, you cannot argue about the ultimate results, in my opinion,” said Andretti.
“Lewis cannot really complain very much about bad luck, because look at what happened at Silverstone, for instance.
“At Silverstone, he knocks out his biggest rival, he had damage to his car, they red-flagged the race, and then he was able to repair the car and still start up front and win the race, with his rival in a hospital.
“Max is certainly a deserving World Champion. Max knows darn well that it took a miracle for it to happen, and the miracle was Latifi crashing, which no one could have predicted.
“But that’s the beauty of our sport – it’s not over until it’s over. You have to accept that.
“You can cry until the cows come home, but this is not the only time that things like that have happened in the last moment, the decisive moment.
“I think, overall, by ending the way it did, Formula 1 can consider 2021 as a really fantastic season.”